Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sequim Parks - Weeds versus Toddler Safety?

I have attended the past number of Sequim Parks Advisory Board meetings and have noticed another example of the remarkable disconnect that often exists between government agencies and Sequim families.

Part of the agenda of the Sequim Parks Advisory Board is to discuss the “state of the parks” in Sequim. I guarantee you that the items you think of as you picture the state of Sequim parks are different from the ones the Board members bring up.

The Park Board members mention weeds getting high on a trail behind Les Schwab. In contrast, I hear parents mention to me issues like the unsafe toddler playground at Carrie Blake Park. It is located just feet from the main road into the park with no safety fence around it. Toddlers can easier wander into the path of a distracted driver totting their dog on their lap heading into the dog park. From the parent’s perspective, this is a tragedy waiting to happen and the parent wonders at the City’s lack of interest in addressing such an obvious safety concern.

I have met the Sequim Parks Advisory Board Members and have found them to be good, caring, concerned citizens. Their lack of awareness of issues that kids and families care about isn’t due to a purposeful choice, or resistance. The entire board is older. I would guess that four of the five members are older then 65 years old and the other is in his 50’s. “Kid” issues just often don’t get raised effectively or properly by parents. If the Board isn’t aware of an issue, they can’t react to it or be held accountable for the issue.

There is at least one opening, with perhaps more coming, on the Sequim Parks Advisory Board. Having a Board member that is raising a kid and is using the Sequim City Parks would be a huge help to the Board and to the cause of kids and families in Sequim. I know for a fact that the existing Board would welcome a younger new member.

The real trick is getting someone to donate their time once per month to the community by attending the meeting. This Parks Advisory open position is a classic case of something that wouldn’t take a lot of time (one meeting per month) but have a huge influence on issues in Sequim (The Board makes direct recommendations to the City Council about Parks issues).

Call me if you have questions. We really need someone from our midst to step into this role. I can be emailed at sequimfamilies@yahoo.com or called at 461-4455. Please let us know if you apply so we can recommend you to the City Council.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Playfields A Step Closer!

It is ok to get excited! The huge playfield project that we are advocating is moving closer to reality. The first step in any project is to secure permission. This week we have officially received the blessing of the City of Sequim and the State Dept. of Ecology and Dept. of Health.

Phew! Now comes the easy part of raising money for a large capital project in a down economy.

The emails I am getting this week from the Fall after school leagues as they get ready only motivates me further to work hard on this project. Everyone is out of space. This project is badly needed and will make a huge statement that our town is not only a retirement town. It is also a vital, healthy town of all ages.

For now give thanks that we navigated through the up front obstacles. (And get a bit excited that there are acres and acres of playfields coming when we pull this project together).
See you at the fields!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sequim Politics and the Invisible Kid

As I meet with people in power explaining the needs of kids and families in the Sequim community, I have heard over and over again the same questions:

“Where are all these kids you keep talking about?”
“I never see them, are you sure there are that many?”
“I had no idea that problem existed”

At the same time, parents I talk to about the current state of things in Sequim often say the same things:

“Families don’t get their fair share – the old folks get everything in this town”
“I am tired of being an outsider in my own town – it is like I don’t count”

This is a huge problem for kids when it comes time for politicians and government staff to make decisions on who to help, who to listen to and who to think about as they divvy up Community resources. The only have so much money and space. There is competition for the money and the winner is often the group that makes the best, most compelling case that their need is the greatest. When kids and their families are “invisible” in the political process they are going to be overlooked.

One of the biggest success so far at Sequim Family Advocates was coordinating the attendance of so many kids and families at the October Sequim City Council Meeting. It is burned into the memory of the staff and Council. They talk about it often when I meet with them. At Sequim’s City Hall they know that you are committed and have seen the “whites of your eyes”. As we work on the playfield project with them they have a good understanding of who they would be helping if they approve the project.

The funny thing is that there were already decision makers there at the City ready to support our efforts. But without an organized front to push for change, they had nothing to point toward as they pondered sticking their neck out for kids and families. After your large display at City Hall, it became easy for them to push for us and help our cause. By being invisible we cut the knees out from decision makers that are ready and willing to help us. Becoming visible revealed support that was there all the time. Waiting.

The challenge I would put to you is to be as visible as possible to those in power. This is so important I can’t tell you enough. If you want to change the town and better the situation for kids and families – make sure your beliefs are counted. It isn’t enough to complain at the dinner table or to your friends after a practice. It isn’t going to help to name call or grouse. Real political change comes when groups organize and become known to decision makers.

We outnumber most special interest groups that have had great success in our town in the past. When we organize, we become the big deal.

Send a link to this blog to a friend who isn’t on our email list, for example. That is a political activity that will help. You don’t need to organize a rally or spend a bunch of time. Grassroots politics comes down to neighbors joining together for a cause. If you want to make a difference, decide to find five people that want to register with us and become counted as a Sequim Family Advocate.

Have them email sequimfamilies@yahoo.com to register.

Thanks for caring about our town and its future. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Carrie Blake Field Project

Many have asked about where the field project will exactly be located at Carrie Blake. I have posted a copy of the maps - hopefully you can read them ok.

The area is currently unused field grass with a walking trail surrounding it. We will re-locate part fo the existing path and put three large terraced areas inside the walking trail. The terraces will allow for mulitple playfields - including a "Championship" sized soccer field that complies with international standards for field dimensions.

The goals would be movable - much like Sequim Junior Soccer uses now for a few of their fields.

Parking would be accessed of Rhodefer road into a new parking lot or the existing parking lots at the existing playground areas. There is a trail over the creek to the new playfield area.

This project will radically change how the local leagues can practice and play. It should also add enough capacity of playfields in town to induce new leagues to start offering different recreational options (Adult Soccer, lacrosse etc).

Exciting Stuff!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome To Sequim Family Advocates Online!

No place to practice? Crowded fields? Isn't there anything we can do?

Yes, there is something you can do. Sequim Youth Advocates is forming right now to enable effective political activism toward the needs of kids in our town.

The forming of a group of citizens openly working toward advocating the needs of families and children in the Sequim area has been on my heart for years now.

It has become more and more clear in the past few years that a unified block of voting citizens needed to come together to better represent our interests. Other parts of society have done an effective job stating their case to politicians and policy makers in our county. Basically, they get what they want while we make do.

Many of us struggle to keep up with demands of work, family and volunteer commitments. The concept of political activism seems out of reach if it ever crosses our mind in frustration as we watch political decisions made that directly affect our families.

It strikes me that most local politicians do not currently concern themselves much with what families think. The honest political fact is that they haven’t had to care too much.

They will care, however, when we come calling with a unified voice.

We are many - more than they realize. Over 550 kids are playing soccer, over 200 playing football, over 350 play Little League, over 300 play basketball.... The schools are actually growing. We can change things in Clallam County if we work together.

Please contact the email address below to register as a member of our group.

Please spread the word that this group is forming. You can forward the email address sequimfamilies@yahoo.com to your contacts to enable our list of registered supporters to grow.

If you have thoughts, concerns or ideas about the future for kids and families in Sequim please post!

Please remember to refrain from attacking any particular part of society – it is easy to slip into the mode of attacking. I feel your frustration acutely with how things currently sit, but I hope our group can be an example to the kids we advocate with our restrained political activism.

Stand by for more. We will be gathering names in the coming weeks. Won’t it be fun to see this start? Thanks for joining the cause.

Craig Stevenson